Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma State University Economic Center Targets Expanded Reach

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma State University Economic Center Targets Expanded Reach

Article excerpt

Russell Evans needs an economic model for pricing his economic models.

By the end of this month, the new director of Oklahoma State University's Center for Applied Economic Research expects to kick out the center's first state and metro economic forecasts since Evans took over for Mark Snead this spring.

With his graduate student assistants now at hand, Evans will evaluate how to jump-start the services Snead instigated to monitor and aid Oklahoma's economic growth - a function tailor-made for OSU, with campuses scattered across the state.

"We hope to take advantage of that by expanding our reach of influence," Evans said. "From those three main offices, we feel like if we can grow just enough to staff a principal research center here in Stillwater and a small office in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, we feel like we can reach out all across the state."

As recessionary clouds mushroomed around the Sooner State last year, Snead established the center as Oklahoma's economic watchdog. It kicked out three updates to his state and metro forecasts, and hosted a fall statewide conference to reassure Oklahomans about their stability and viability as the national outlook worsened.

The center also created innovative models to forecast energy commodity prices and the economic performance of smaller communities. Before taking a position with the Federal Reserve, Snead had seen this as a potential revenue stream to support the center, providing services for Ponca City, Stillwater, and other communities.

"It was money well-spent," said Chelsea Harkins, director of economic development for the city of Owasso. Her department paid the OSU center $5,000 to not only prepare a forecast and materials for the city's February outlook conference, but for Snead to deliver the presentation.

She hopes Evans can duplicate that next year.

"As we understand it, because now all the matrix are in place, the formulas are in place, to calculate the economic outcome, they said if we continue to use them it will not cost as much," she said.

Evans intends to build on Snead's accomplishments while making the center's resources more accessible.

"We are in the process of familiarizing ourselves with the client list and the forecasting model," he said. "In Oklahoma, our geography is such that we just have so many of these small- and medium-sized towns across the state. I certainly hope that as the years progress, we can become a source they can rely on for quality objective information and helping them plan their budgets."

Pricing those services remains a challenge. As an arm of the state, when the center provides forecasting analyses for a town like Sand Springs, which it is helping study the impact of a mini-mill closing, Evans considers not just production costs, but how to effectively spread those costs across all who benefit. …

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